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Women as “underutilized assets”

A critical review of IMF advice on female labour force participation and fiscal consolidation


Deeply-embedded patriarchal norms mean women play a dual role in the economy as productive and reproductive. This reality, and the failure of governments, businesses and institutions to recognise and address it, mean that despite women’s unpaid labour providing a massive subsidy to states and economies, it is often exploited or unrecognised. This double burden on women affects the type of paid work women can do and results in them working more hours than men in almost all countries.

This briefing focuses on the IMF’s advice aimed at increasing female labour force participation and calls on the organisation to consider this participation in the context of all the work women are doing. The report urges the IMF to urgently address the impact of their prescribed macroeconomic policies regarding women’s opportunities to access decent work, the disproportionate unpaid care burden they face and their ability to exercise choice over their economic contribution.